How We Can All Help In The Fight Against Racism In The UK And Beyond
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Featured Image Credit: PA
On Monday May 25th 2020, George Floyd died in Minneapolis after police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes while he lay handcuffed on the floor. Floyd, 46, did not resist his arrest, he was unarmed. He repeatedly called out: "I can't breathe" - but like so many Black people before him, his pleas fell on deaf ears.
After the distressing video of Floyd's final moments circulated online, protests took place in his hometown, and pleas for change quickly spread to other cities across the USA and the world, with Black Lives Matter marches taking place across the UK this week.
Chauvin has since been found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter, with sentencing imminent, but decades in jail expected. But that's just the start of the tip of the iceberg.
Floyd's death isn't a solitary case. In the US, more than 1,000 people are killed by police every year, with black people three times more likely to be victims than white people.
A much-needed conversation is now taking place regarding racism, white privilege and how white allies can be actively non-racist.
As Desmond Tutu famously taught: "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor".
1.) Accept you're part of the problem
It's easy for a white person to insist that they're not racist. Indeed, we might think we've never said or done anything racist in our lives.
But as American author and poet Scott Woods explains, racism is much deeper than that; it's an "insidious cultural disease" that runs deep into our society.
"Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people's expense, whether whites know/like it or not," he says.
"It's a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it's hard work, but it's the price you pay for owning everything".
In other words, it's important to think about every privilege we've ever been afforded for being white; to be aware of it and to work to dismantle it.
2.) Educate yourself
One of the key ways to be anti-racist is to educate yourself on black history, and understand the racism that is still systemic in today's society.
Luckily, there are innumerable resources out there addressing this entrenched racism and white people's role in it, from books to podcasts and films.
For reading, start with Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race, Renni Eddo-Lodge's eye-opening book about structural racism and feminism.
The best-selling book exposes some uncomfortable truths, and people are even calling for it - along with The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla, a searing collection of essays by BAME voices - to be added to the UK's GCSE curriculum.
Follow up with Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins; White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin Diangelo; Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad; and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which are all good starting points for learning about insidious racism in relation to gender and white privilege.
If you aren't a huge reader, there are a ton of podcasts that deserve your attention, too.
There's 1619, a six-part podcast by the New York Times that tells the story of a ship carrying enslaved Africans to the English colony of Virginia. Released last year to mark 400 years since the beginning of slavery in America, the podcast examines the "long shadow" of that fateful journey.
Afterwards, move on to About Race by Eddo-Lodge, which sees the author interview key voices from the anti-racism movement; followed by the BBC's Black Lives Matter: The Story of a Slogan on the history of the movement.
Also worth a listen is The Diversity Gap by Bethany Wilkinson, which focuses on diversity and its place in society; and Pod for the Cause, hosted by The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, which focuses on fighting hate, bias and other human rights challenges.
Streaming sites like Netflix are brimming with films, documentaries and series that bring race issues to the fore, highlighting notable events in the history of racism with some seriously heart-wrenching and educational viewing.
When They See Us (2019) was a major talking point when it landed on Netflix last year. Directed by Ava DuVernay, the four-part drama tells the harrowing true story of the 'Central Park Five' - five teens from Harlem who were falsely accused of a brutal rape of a 28-year-old jogger in Central Park in 1989.
The series examines the role race had in the teen's arrests (four were black and one Latino) which lead them each to serve between six and 13 year sentences for a crime they didn't commit. If you missed WTSU the first time round, now's the time to watch it.
Dear White People (2017) is Justin Simien's critically-acclaimed comedy-drama that follows a group of black college students studying at an Ivy League college in America. Available on Netflix, the drama tackles modern race relations in the States through the lives of the characters.
Another Ava DuVernay film, 13th (2016) is the director's Oscar-nominated film about race and mass incarceration in the United States. The thought-provoking watch - titled after the Thirteenth Amendment - argues that since its abolishment, slavery has been reincarnated as what is now the mass incarceration of people of colour in the country.
I Am Not Your Negro (2016) is a documentary based on James Baldwin's unfinished manuscript, Remember This House. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the Oscar and BAFTA-nominated film explores the history of racism in the US as told through Baldwin's collection of notes and letters from the mid-1970s.
3.) Support Black people and amplify their voices
Following George Floyd's death, writer Mireille Cassandra Harper tweeted: "This is an emotional and traumatic time for the community; and you checking in means more than you can imagine. Ask how you can provide support".
Whether it's reaching out to your black friends to check how they're doing, shutting down a racist joke or commentary, there are lots of ways you can support black people just by speaking out.
When the black people you know and admire discuss the racism they're subjected to, share their thoughts and feelings with your peers, talk about a book you've read by a black author and champion and support BAME businesses. Use your voice to champion theirs.
4.) Sign petitions
In the spirit of shutting down racism and elevating black causes, petitions are a great way to lobby authorities into taking decisive action on racism.
There are tonnes currently circulating that you can support, including this push for Valerie's Law, which is asking for "specialist training mandatory for all police and other government agencies that support black women and girls affected by domestic abuse", given that current police practices fail to support women of African and Caribbean heritage.
Another petition you can lend your voice to is this one, calling for increased funding so that the NHS can provide diverse prosthetics for women after cancer surgery, ensuring Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities have a colour range that is right for them.
And this petition is an important one, too, calling for lessons in secondary schools to be more inclusive of BAME history.
If you want proof that petitions work (alongside other forms of activism), the Justice for George Floyd Change.org petition reached almost 20 million signatures last year and is the biggest US petition on the site, ever. It called on Mayor Jacob Frey and DA Mike Freeman to have all the police officers involved in the incident with George Floyd charged, something which has thankfully now happened.
While Chavin is the only one to have been sentenced so far, officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao, are also awaiting trial for aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter - and the petition definitely played a part in demonstrating an international demand for their arrest like we have never seen before.
There's a whole load more new petitions you can sign here, too, if you're interested.
Peaceful protests took place across the world last year, and their impact was undeniable.
Last year saw rallies across the world, including in Manchester, London, Birmingham, Leeds, Southampton and Glasgow and other big cities across the UK.
Follow Black Lives Matter on social media and connect with other campaign groups local to your area to find out when protests are happening. George Floyd's is just one example, but there are sadly many more new injustices to amplify a year on, and much more change still to push for today.
Donating money (if you have it to spare) is one of the easiest and effective ways to help, and there are countless causes in dire need of funds.
The Minnesota Freedom Fund is a non-profit in the US providing vital aid for protesters in Floyd's state who have been arrested, so that they can pay their bail. The organisation behind it is urging the Governor of Minnesota to defund the police and completely reform its bail system.
Black Visions Collective is one such charity to consider - a black, trans and queer-led organisation based in Minnesota, which is "dedicated to Black liberation and to collective liberation".
You can also donate a sum of money to be split amongst a selection of 37 bail funds via the ActBlue website. These include Philadelphia Bail Fund, Chicago Community Bond Fund, Nashville Community Bail Fund, New Orleans Safety and Freedom Fund, and Kansas City Community Bail Fund, to name a few.
Plus, The Bail Project is another nonprofit organisation that pays bail for people in need across the America, with the mantra: "Freedom should be free".
UK specific charities:
Show Racism The Red Card is just one of the many worthy causes you could donate to if you wish to help a UK charity. It focuses on educating kids and adults about racism using workshops, training programmes and multimedia packages.
The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust is another great platform working "to transform lives [and] end discrimination" in honour of Black teenager Stephen Lawrence, who was killed during a racially motivated attack in southeast London back in 1993.
You can also send money to Runnymede Trust - the UK's leading independent race equality think tank.
You can donate to the Black Lives Matter movement and help their global efforts here. Working across the US, UK and Canada, its mission is to "eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes".
7.) Stop saying 'All Lives Matter'
To be clear, nobody is saying all lives don't matter. But why take this fight away from black people and their very real struggle?
If you're coming out with #AllLivesMatter right now: pic.twitter.com/WrSOyfM3rl
- Jack Monroe (@BootstrapCook) June 1, 2020
We think singer Billie Eilish put it pretty darn well when she wrote: "No one is saying your life is not hard. No one is saying literally anything about you.
"This is not about you. You are not in need. You are not in danger".